What kind of essential elements should I ask to have on my contract? I can't afford an actual lawyer right now so I am using online services. I will, of course, have them check it.

Anyways, here are things I thought of:

  • late fees
  • tasks beyond scope of work
  • private policy
  • arbitration
  • project cancellation
  • digital asset ownership
  • consultation fees
  • meeting deadline policy
  • deliverables
  • specific needs (if clients need an update an hour a week, etc)
  • deposits
  • retainers

...Is there anything else I should consider???

  • 1
    If you search on Google you will find any kind of pdf contracts. You can read several of them and make your own contract in Word adapting/rewriting the various sources to your needs.
    – Mario
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 16:43
  • I have done so @Mario. I just wanted to make sure that I am not missing anything. :)
    – Aurora A
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 17:26

3 Answers 3


Payment Terms

Payment terms are imposed to ensure that payments are received by you within a reasonable period of time of finishing the work. Many freelancers miss this important component.

I prefer Net 15 (or shorter) terms. Be sure to discuss this with your client. If the client balks at a short turnaround on payments, this is a red flag. If the client tries the old game of "we'll pay you when we get paid", RUN!

More payment terms are here.

Payment Milestones

This is relates your deliverables. If you're not working on a time-and-materials basis, be sure to connect your deliverables to specific payment-due amounts, and create invoices upon completing milestones instead of waiting until the end of the project. This reduces the risk of you not getting paid.


The important aspect of any contract for me are:

  • What work will be done (Scope)
  • When is it to be completed (Deadlines)
  • What exactly is the final product (Deliverables)
  • How much will the Client be expected to pay and when (Fee and payment schedule, cancellation clause, deposits)
  • Who owns the final product (Ownership)

These is the crux of any contract.

Something no one ever tells anyone.... The longer your contract the more it's going to scare off clients. You don't need to have a long, double-speaking, legalese, contract to be protected. Contracts don't need to appear to be written by an attorney with decades of experience. Contracts merely need to detail what the parties are agreeing to, that's all. The problem with most "contract templates" is they are taken from a law firm or attorney-written and, well, attorney's like reading and writing "legalese" so they are generally full of it unnecessarily. And since most freelancer aren't lawyers, they assume they need to stick to some attorney-written script. You do not.

You don't even necessarily need anything signed. For example (in the US), if you send an email detailing the above and the client replies that they agree, that could be seen as a contract. I've had some clients that are fantastic clients, but just don't like dealing with signing 2-3 pages of legalese contracts. However, If I layout the above in clear, common language terms, they have no problem agreeing to it.

Contracts are always beneficial (to both parties) so they are always a good idea. However, just because it's a "contract" doesn't mean it has to appear to be presentable to the Supreme Court or based upon 4-5 page contract templates you find online. The primary goal of any contract is to merely put in writing what both parties agree to. While they are a good idea, being too "legalese" in contract can be a real turn off for some clients/people. Keep it simple, straight-forward, and clear.

Over the years I've whittled down my contract to a simple, single-sided, page/PDF that lists the above items for any project in simple, plain English. I also include an area for "Assumptions" which contains specific notes on the scope of that project, client responsibilities in terms of delivering content, etc. but I don't bother detailing a bunch of legal stuff that is unwarranted and included just to make the contract appear more "legal".

You can scribble on a bar napkin "I'll create your web site, you pay me $xxx" and both sign it.. that's a contract.

  • Thanks! I figured that I should just add a "terms of service" page to the contract for more info. I don't want to miss anything because it's hard to tell clients that I have new rules.
    – Aurora A
    Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 20:04

I agree with @Mario's comments. I have a PDF that was made available by the PCG in the UK (Professional Contractors Group I think it stood for before they were taken over). It was free, and put together by lawyers, it had a few re-writes as laws changed. For example, within Europe, one has to take great care to avoid an employee/employer relationship otherwise who ever pays the invoice could be held liable for non-payment of deductions normally done on a salary paid person. There is no rule that defines who is an employee but an accumulation of working conditions can dictate if the service provider is in the eyes of the law considered an employee (salary worker, taxes/health/pension/holiday/sick/other benefits paid for by employer) as opposed to service provider (paid a premium because they cover their own taxes/benefits).

Don't re-create the wheel - you must live near a small business association that should be able to help you. Or get someone else's contract and make changes to it (then get someone else to review it).

  • Thanks for the response @fiprojects! I just wanted to make sure that I didn't miss anything. I will research this. I appreciate it!
    – Aurora A
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 17:25

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